It’s damn hard to make a worthy comedy sequel. This is especially true if the original was both a financial and critical success. Expectations are sky high for the sequel to be an uproariously funny smash—but, alas, the result is usually a film in which the humor feels forced and strained, as the moviemakers try too hard to capture what viewers loved about the effortless original. Moreso than other genres, it seems especially difficult for comedies to recapture lightning in a bottle. On May 26, Todd Phillips’ The Hangover: Part II, the much-anticipated sequel to the surprise 2009 summer hit, will be released. Whether it can capture the kinetic energy of the original remains to be seen, but in the meantime join us as we take a look back at some of the best and worst comedy sequels of all time.
Good Comedy Sequels
A Shot in the Dark (1964)
directed by Blake Edwards
This is one of the few comedy sequels that is generally considered better than the original. Unlike its predecessor, The Pink Panther, which focuses on star David Niven, A Shot in the Dark places classic comedy character, Inspector Jacques Clouseau (a supporting role in the original), front and center. As a bumbling inspector investigating a series of murders, longtime comedian Peter Sellars became a movie star overnight. It was in this sequel that Sellars adopted an oddball, hilariously exaggerated French accent. The success of A Shot in the Dark lead to three more Pink Panther films, all starring Sellars (a fourth entry, 1982’s Trail of the Pink Panther, stars Sellars as well, but the film was entirely made up of deleted scenes from previous entries, since Sellars died before production began). In 2006, the Pink Panther series was rebooted, with Steve Martin playing Clouseau, but the film lacked the effortless quirkiness that Sellars brought to the part.
National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985) & Christmas Vacation (1989)
directed by Amy Heckerling; Jeremiah S. Chechik
Everyone’s favorite misfit family, the Griswolds—Clark (Chevy Chase), Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo) and teenagers Rusty and Audrey (a rotating cast of young actors)—proved highly popular in the 1980s. After their first adventure together, National Lampoon’s Vacation, in which they embarked on uproarious trip to the beloved amusement park, Wally World, writer John Hughes sent the Griswolds to Europe in European Vacation. While not as consistently funny as the original, the sequel finds the Griswold’s immersed in yet another array of hilarious situations. The third film in the series, Christmas Vacation, is even better, and, over the years, has become a bonafide holiday classic. In 1997, a fourth entry was released, Vegas Vacation, but it lacked the high comic energy of its predecessors. While the Vacation series has most likely been brought to a close (unless the writers can conjure up a situation, in which, perhaps Clark and Ellen can take their grandkids on an ill-fated trip), there’s no doubt that well-meaning buffoon Clark Griswold and his clan will go down as one of cinema’s funniest families.
Clerks II (2006)
directed by Kevin Smith
Twelve years after crafting his no-budget indie sensation, Clerks, about the aimless lives of convenience store clerks, Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson), writer-director Kevin Smith went back to his roots to craft this likable follow-up. In the sequel, the two slackers are found working at a fast food restaurant, still engaging in raunchy discussions as they try to figure out how to move ahead in life. With its mix of hilariously profane dialogue and surprisingly emotional insights, Clerks II provides viewers with the chance to hang out for at least one more day with lovable screw-ups.
Bad Comedy Sequels
Caddyshack II (1988)
directed by Allan Arkush
This abysmal sequel features a mostly all-new cast (including Jackie Mason, Robert Stack, Randy Quaid and Dan Aykroyd, with only Chevy Chase returning from the first movie),but none of the charm found in the raucous golf hit original. With its embarrassingly unfunny slapstick situations (surprisingly, the script was co-written by Harold Ramis, who directed the original Caddyshack), Caddyshack II is the epitome of a forced, unnecessary comedy sequel.
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)
directed by Beeban Kidron
While this isn’t a horribly made film from a technical standpoint, it stands in stark contrast to the delightful romantic comedy that inspired it, Bridget Jones’s Diary. Renee Zellweger reprises her role as the love-hungry title character, but this time comes off as an annoying caricature, rather than the empathetic flesh-and-blood woman of the original. Featuring redundant situations from the first film and wasted supporting performances from Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason is proof that sometime it’s better to leave well-enough alone.
Be Cool (2005)
directed by F. Gary Gray
Be Cool is also competently made, but it can’t help but pale in comparison to the superb film that preceded it, Get Shorty. One of the funniest and most underrated films of the 1990s, Barry Sonnenfeld’s Get Shorty follows Miami loan shark Chili Palmer (a never cooler John Travolta), who’s eager to leave his criminal past behind and get into the movie business. Scott Frank’s expert adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel (much of the dialogue is lifted verbatim from the book) is chock-full of sharp, witty one-liners. Be Cool (once again adapted from Leonard’s novel, this time without Frank’s involvement), by contrast, features not one memorable line in its entirety. This dumb, generic movie follows Chili’s adventures in the music industry, which, unlike the keen insights the original brought to the film industry, is painted in overly broad strokes. Despite an impressive supporting cast (including Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, The Rock and Harvey Keitel), Be Cool replaces the smooth intelligence of the original with unfunny gags and dim-witted dialogue apparently targeted to teenagers—in short, it’s the kind of flick that Chili, the incomparable movie buff found in Get Shorty, would utterly loathe.
Have a favorite/least favorite comedy sequel that didn’t make the cut? Let us know below!